By Otto Pippenger and Brian Howey
Students and faculty at Laney College and San Francisco City College are both faced with the imminent sale of school assets as part of city initiatives.
At Laney, the Oakland A’s are intent on moving next door onto Peralta Community College District land, while across the bay, City College’s parking seems doomed as the city of San Francisco finalizes the details of its partnership with the developer Avalon Bay for a piece of land next to City College to construct large-scale housing development.
City College’s Balboa Reservoir
Members of City College’s Board of Trustees attempted to formally raise complaints on Oct. 30 against the 1,100 housing units planned by Mayor Lee’s Office of Planning and Workforce Development in the Balboa Reservoir, the college’s current parking lot, almost exactly one month after Avalon Bay was officially selected to head the multi-hundred-million dollar project. The resolution called for the school to assert ownership of the reservoir to ensure that the school’s interests are observed, and it was sponsored by John Rizzo and Brigitte Davila, who as the school’s representative of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the Balboa Reservoir development project, has been present throughout the majority of the process. The resolution failed to pass, and construction is expected to begin in early 2021.
The reservoir is owned by the city through the San Francisco Power and Utilities Company, which will now be purchased by Avalon Bay for an unknown amount.
Though many have complained about the construction at every step of the way, many feel their complaints have gone unaddressed despite nominally democratic aspects of the process.
As City College instructor Simon Hansen said in January 2015, “What if our input is that we don’t want development?”
While over 50 percent of the units will technically be affordable, some 15 percent will be “moderately” priced to roughly 120 percent of the area median income, making only roughly 35 percent available for those earning less than $80,000 a year.
Another question of long-term affordability arises from the 115 homes which will be for sale. While 48 of these will be offered below market rate, it is unclear whether or not resale of these units will be bound by the same strictures.
According to Avalon Bay’s proposal for the project, actual construction is to begin no sooner than 2021.
During the first phase of this process, the developers intend to make about 300 parking spaces available, while creating 500 new spots by the end of the construction process.
Avalon Bay’s proposal describes the parking lot as “empty much of the time,” but data on the lot collected between 2015 and 2016 suggest usage has increased commensurately to the uptick in enrollment created by the Free City College program.
The Guardsman revealed in October that during school hours the Balboa Reservoir has been almost entirely full of parked cars.
Considering the college will build a Performing Arts Center in the school’s upper parking area in the next few years, along with the possible educator housing proposed by Avalon Bay, it is apparent to the naked eye that 300 spaces will not be nearly enough, as both the upper parking lot and the Balboa Reservoir are nearly completely full during school hours as of Oct. 2017.
While the initial concept for the development suggested no more than 500 housing units, Avalon Bay intends to construct 1,100, the residents of which will also have to compete for parking.
The future of City College’s parking is seemingly predicated on the school’s ability to reach an independent agreement with Avalon Bay. With the schedule moving forward rapidly, the time to prevent changes disadvantageous to City College may have already passed.
Laney College’s A’s Stadium
On Sept. 12, the Oakland A’s announced their intention to build their new ballpark on what is now the Peralta Community College District’s offices.
District Chancellor Jowel Laguerre has told Laney College’s campus newspaper, Laney Tower, and multiple other media outlets that “it would be dumb for Laney to sell its land,” but said the district was more likely to sign a long term lease with the team should the district enter negotiations with them.
Sale or no, Laney Head Librarian Evelyn Lord isn’t a fan of the proposal.
“It just doesn’t make sense to have a major league baseball stadium next to our small college,” she said. “That’s just wrong.”
Lord is among a growing contingent of Laney faculty and students rallying against the stadium. They call themselves the Laney Land for Students Coalition.
They and several other community organizations, together known as the Stay the Right Way Coalition, believe noise from the stadium will disrupt classes and scare native wildlife and that the rising cost of living as a result of the stadium will displace local residents.
A recent Laney Tower poll found that 58.5 percent of faculty and 46.5 percent of students are opposed to the stadium, and another 32.1 percent of faculty and 40.1 percent of students are undecided.
For now, the community seems split on the issue. But that hasn’t always been the case, as Laney College is no stranger to development proposals.
In 1990, Kaiser Permanente offered to buy a piece of Laney’s campus, including its athletic fields and childcare center. Robert Scannell, chancellor at the time, favored selling the land to Kaiser, saying the deal could bolster the district’s cash-strapped coffers, but local media quickly discovered that Scannell had withheld essential information about the logistics of the sale from the Peralta Board of Trustees.
The sale with Kaiser fell through, and the scandal led to Scannell’s early retirement after increasing pressure from the board of trustees.
In 2004, Oakland developer Alan Dones offered to convert Laney’s athletic fields into an ambitious complex of government administrative buildings and condominiums.
After angry reactions from multiple school and community groups, the deal was abandoned.
Lord looks to these past development follies for inspiration and says she remains hopeful that resistance to the stadium will scare off the A’s.
Laguerre is also optimistic. In a September interview with the Laney Tower, he said that even if the A’s proposal falls through, “other [developers] may want to pursue us,” referring to Peralta Community College District’s land.
Laguerre said a Chinatown developer that he wouldn’t name is also “very interested” in a development deal with the district.
The major difference between Laney and City College is that the Peralta District controls the land that the A’s are eyeing, while City College has little say in the fate of its city-owned parking lot.
Between the schools, Peralta is in a much better position to oppose development, if it wants to. On Dec. 12, the Peralta board will decide whether to negotiate with the A’s. If they do, opponents of the stadium will have a lot of work to do.
The City College Journalism Department, in conjunction with Laney College’s Journalism Department, worked together for issue 8 of our newspapers to produce a unique collaborative issue. Inside this issue you will find articles written using cross reporting, where journalists from each department came together and developed their stories under a dual byline. If you would like to contact reporters about questions or comments in regards to collaborative articles, please email email@example.com.